Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Words I used to describe yesterday - like a bubble of a completely surrounding grey cloud, knowing that on the other side of the grey cloud the world is bursting with life and energy, but that I am in the grey cloud and for the moment I can't escape.  It wasn't a feeling of lack of hope (like a feeling of being trapped there for ever) but it was a feeling of "this is where I am right now, and it is claustrophobic and dark and numb and right now I can't get out of it".  

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mixed Emotions

Today mum would have been 65.

Everyone says first birthdays and first anniversaries following deaths are the hardest - I know that well.  But, of course, once again I learn that all that I know about death and grief is at least very different to my experience of the death of my mother.  Those feelings of intense grief and "blurriness" are back this morning.   As I think through my last week, I discover that my reactions to people and my ability to relate well shows strong signs of grief.  And I try and be gentle on myself - it IS the day of my mother's birthday.

I think about last year.  I organised to have mum over for dinner - with dad and a close friend who my parents know well who was staying with me at the time.  The day before mum cancelled coming.  Dad, Sonja and I still had dinner.  I don't know how many times Dad and I have had dinner together when we were meant to be having dinner with mum as well.  A good decision many years ago now means that we have gone ahead with things even if mum chose not to come, even when it's her birthday dinner!  So Dad and I went out on Saturday night this year - not actually in memory of mum's birthday, actually in celebration of him purchasing a house ... but it did feel a bit interesting - we are out together for dinner 2 days before mum's birthday, without mum and rather than being strange, it is unfortunately quite normal.

I think today the thing I am saddest by is the lack of ability mum had to be able to enjoy things like her birthdays while she was here.  Her anxiety around events was so great that she sabotaged the potential of them being good by making such issues around them that any potential for them to be free and easy is gone.  So unfortunately mum's birthday without spending it with her is surprisingly normal.  A sadness for me today as I think about this is the tendency I have towards similar behaviour - mostly not as extreme as mum's but still in that direction.  I long for change in that.

Another thought this morning as I thought about what I'm feeling is a statement that was made to me on the day of mum's death - you are so lucky.  mmm ... someone who was with me heard it more than I did.  Not the words to say to someone whose mum has just died - but said by someone in intense grief themselves.  However, those sentiments reiterated by the same person a few days ago hit me more.  Indeed, there are consequences of mum's death that indeed find me in a fortunate position - one which few people of my age and stage of life find themselves in.  Some of that is because of mum's death - some because of the consequences of timing decisions that mean that things were in the state that they were at the time of her death.  I am grateful and feel immensely blessed and freed by the financial impact of mum's death.  I am amazed by that in more ways than I would want to talk about publicly.  But the circumstances that lead to me being in this situation do not leave me thinking the words "you are so lucky" are the appropriate words.      

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thinking Self and Observing Self

The book I'm reading makes a distinction between the thinking self and the observing self.  I find it quite a good distinction - the thinking self is all the thoughts, feelings, urges and sensations we have about life - all our judgements and thoughts fit are part of that self.  The observing self, however, is the part of us that observes what is happening and monitors and notices.  Our thinking self is just that - thinking - not good or bad, and certainly not the controller of what is.  Most of the time thought we act, I certainly act, as if it is.  I think this, therefore it is.  I feel this, therefore I need to pay attention to that.  Not necessary untrue, but not necessarily helpful either.  And that's the key question of this book - does this thing the thinking self is telling us (thought, feeling, urge, sensation) help us live in the direction of our values?  If yes - let it propel us in that direction.  If no, don't try and struggle with it, do things to "let it be" and keep living in the direction of our values.  This is profoundly different as well to much previous work I've done around psych stuff - rather than trying to change our unhelpful thoughts and feelings, we are encouraged to let them be and make space for them, but not let them dictate what we do.  There is place for lots of these different perspectives - but this is certainly the time and place for the ACT perspective that I'm exploring for me ... It's amazing how it's transforming my thinking and my life.  It gives me shivers regularly - and aligns so well with so much of my theology.

This morning I thought of another thing it changes for me.  With friends, colleagues and people who I am walking alongside in life, I often say "what are you thinking" as I can tell they are processing something.  This perspective puts new light on that - if I'm encouraging myself to not pay as much attention to every thought/feeling that comes into my brain (notice, make space for it, but not let fuse with it), how do I use that to influence how I relate and work with others?  I suspect that sometimes that will mean continuing to ask the question (making space for it) and sometimes not (not helping the person/us be fused with their unhelpful thoughts).  It'll be interesting to observe this and learn as I practice it.

Another helpful analogy with all this stuff that has been helpful for me is that our brains are like all the emails that are sent to us - without any filters.  As we get more filters on our emails we can trust more what goes into our junk mail and we might scan it quickly but we don't pay much attention to it - but those emails still come in, its just we don't get consumed by them.  That's been helpful for me.

If you can't tell - I'm excited by it all.

Monday, April 21, 2008


So a new challenge that feels like a real invitation to life: to rid my life of negativity.

Not to rid my life of speaking the truth when that is a statement that might be negative.  But to rid my life of an attitude of negativity.

That includes conversations and thoughts, words I speak, conversations I encourage by my interest, attention I give to my thoughts and many other things.

Right now I'm in the process of noticing the extent to which negativity is present in my life.  It feels harsh and painful but gentle, good and full of peace.  It has all the hallmarks of the spirit of truth at work.  

Great quote

A great quote that Anj has on her blog today:

"Regardless of how a compulsion appears externally, underneath it is always robbing us of our freedom.  We act not because we have chosen to, but because we have to.  We cling to things, people, beliefs, and behaviors not because we love them, but because we are terrified of losing them.

The Dark Night of the Soul - Gerald G. May

Saturday, April 19, 2008

ACT therapy

I've been learning about ACT therapy and loving what I'm discovering and what I'm starting to action in my life.  The popular book on this called The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris is well worth a read and is quite readable.


I'm in the process of an essay on John 13:5-15.  It's the footwashing passage in John - only recorded in John, the book the doesn't include the institution of the Lord's supper.  I'm enjoying immensely although my brain is getting fried!  It's a greek exegesis essay so I'm needing to wrestle with questions around the specifics of the text - what does this word mean, what is the emphasis and should it actual be there at all anyway.  
But some of the questions I've been pondering are why we celebrate communion but we don't have footwashing as a ritual.  I think I've got some answers around that question.  
Another question raised by many scholars is whether there is a reference to baptism in the passage - I don't think there is.

However, one of the things that's hit me deeply has been Jesus' reaction to Simon Peter - in this passage and at other times (we looked at John 21 last week at church).  Jesus' firmness and his grace has hit me again - in his reaction to Simon Peter and to me.

Farewell to Box Hill forever

Tonight I went out to Box Hill - the place that we have owned for 21 years of my 32 years of life.  Currently too it is representative of all our family homes - so it is farewell to the place that we have owned, where I have lived, to family homes in general and to mum's home.  It was great to "be" in the house - to sit, draw, walk around, reflect and pray.  A friend's song came to mind - she wrote about going back to the family home also before it was sold; she wrote about how "she was formed here" and how "my family grew into me, I grew into them".  That was so real for me tonight - the ways in which my family grew into me in good and bad ways.  But more than ever there was an acceptance of it all and an ability to let it be and move on, knowing that it is, in a sense, forever mine.

Settlement is in a couple of weeks.

So much to blog

There are so many things that I could blog - and the specific thoughts I might try and blog separately - this will be a more general post.

Life has been full and right now life is very very good.  I feel more content and settled than I think I pretty much ever have.  Life is good and I am good.

It hasn't been that the whole of the last month - in fact quite the opposite.  I got very much to the end of my tether about 2 weeks ago which has encouraged a deep considered look at my life with deep considered decisions and 2 weeks later life is very different.  

I am very conscious of the amazingness of the many great people in my life - of all kinds.  I'm particularly thankful right now for many people who I have deep friendships with.

More than that though I'm very thankful for the deep connection I have with the creator and life-source of the universe - I seriously have no idea how I'd do life without that.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Yourself or your real self?

'Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in’.

CS Lewis

Thanks Hamo for the quote :)